Encouraging Identity Development as an Educational Goal
It may seem like a far-fetched goal to consider ethnic identity development as a goal for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with ASD often lag behind their peers in the ability to understand their own gender identity (Krantz, 1996) and often have difficulty with peer and group interactions (Scheuermann & Webber, 2002). However, it is important for educators to know the goals of any program, and this includes facilitating the development of ethnic or cultural identity.
It is a common educational goal to teach membership in a family and to facilitate social interaction with family members. Social skills with peers and coworkers are also common targets for educational programs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Developing a positive self-identity that includes statements about skills and talents would supplement the already common practices of teaching students with ASD to be successful. Fostering the development of a positive cultural identity—including identifying preferences of religious activities and describing common rituals and routines—can be easily included in an educational program. Teaching the knowledge and skills necessary for self- advocacy can result from a positive self-identity. Organizations such as People First provide a venue for networking and empowerment while encouraging individuals with disabilities to voice their important perspectives.
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